With Memorial Day around the corner, I was thinking about the picnic comfort food that was always a staple at our family gatherings as I grew up. Whether it was a church potluck or a backyard barbeque, someone always brought potato salad.
For summer gatherings, generally a cold mayo based potato salad graced the table. For cooler months, the hot bacon and tangy vinegar potato salad was available. The latter is usually the one people dub the German Potato Salad. What I have discovered is that the mayo based potato salad is likely from northern Germany and the vinegar based potato salad originated in southern Germany, like Swabian Kartoffelsalat. The region of Swabia is located between the modern states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria in southwestern Germany. Augsburg is the capital and some sources claim that potato salad was invented there. So if you visit the famous Neuschwanstein Castle or travel the Romantische Strasse, you are in the home of the potato salad.
My mother’s potato salad was never created from a recipe. She always threw in all the necessary ingredients without a measuring cup. This may not have rendered the most consistent creation picnic after picnic but it was always tasty and never disappointing. Mom’s potato salad was mayo based. Boil a pot of potatoes. Slather the peeled chunks with mayo, sweet pickles with juice, mustard, onions, occasionally celery, salt, pepper and wha-la, we had salad. Sampling may lend itself to a few more pickles or another scoop of mustard to taste but it was all guestwork on the amounts.
This is the way I usually make my potato salad too. I grew up in various places in the United States but now I call Idaho home. I know, the land of the potatoes. My husband’s family farmed Idaho land for a few generations but potatoes were not their main crop. When I met my husband, his family were actually peppermint farmers. When the mint stills were distilling, man could that clear your sinuses? But living here, I have seen many potato farms (and onions, and sweet potatoes, and corn …). It is a diverse farming community. In fact, the local community where my husband grew up has a Dairy Days Parade every June, not a Potato Days Parade.
I have made the hot German potato salad but that has been from cookbooks. In modern times, it is easy to concoct this dish in a crock pot and have it ready for a gathering. I received Dr. Oetker German Cooking Today, the Original as a gift. It was printed in 1996 and translated into English by a London firm in 1997. In my opinion, it could have been translated a touch better and I don’t use it often but it does have a simple Warmer Kartoffelsalat (warm potato salad) in it that I will share with you here.
2 pounds new potatoes
Wash the potatoes and bring to the boil in water. Cook until tender, drain. Peel while hot and slice.
3 oz. bacon
4 oz. hot vegetable stock
4-5 tbsp. Herb vinegar
Dice the bacon and cook it until the fat runs. Pour bacon fat through a sieve into a bowl. Peel and dice onions and bring to the boil in the vegetable stock; cook 3-5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar. Add bacon fat and mix the dressing with the warm potato slices. Place the salad in an oven-proof bowl. Leave to infuse for a few hours, then place in the oven.
Personally, it is easier to throw it in the crock pot for later. I hope you get a chance to try it or many others that are available online. Potatoes are good any time of the year.